Though Jessica Chastain is oft playing powerful women in a male-dominated world onscreen, she was yet to join the ranks of actresses speaking out about the male-dominated world of film. But now, in a killer essay for THR, the actress makes a beautiful case for increasing the number of women onset and the positive experience a female-dominated set provides.
Now when Chastain says female-dominated, she means that in Hollywood terms. In fact, onset for The Zookeeper’s Wife, from which Chastain pens her letter, the crew was only made up of about 20% women. Chastain describes this as “way more” than any other film she’s worked on. Still, the experience provided the actor with the inspiration to write glorious things like this:
“…When you have a set with predominantly one gender, whether it be all men or all women, it’s not going to be a healthy place. I imagine it’s the same thing in the workforce or other environments: When you have both genders represented, then you have a healthier point of view. The energy is great, you all are working together as a community, and everyone is participating in the exchange of ideas. You don’t feel a hierarchy; you don’t have anyone feeling like they are being left out or bullied or humiliated. Sometimes being the only girl on a set, you can feel like a sexual object.”
An entire film set on which you’re the only female? Talk about an uncomfortable working environment. Particularly when you’re attempting to give your opinion to the man at the helm of it all.
“I’ve been on sets a couple of times where I’ve noticed that if I have an idea about a scene, I have to go through the male actors to be heard. It’s really annoying. The male actor will have a better relationship with the male director, so I have to get the actor on my side. That’s the only thing that sometimes feels very icky.”
Chastain also speaks to the system, offering some explanation as to why Hollywood continues to be a boys club.
If you look at the studio system and the American film industry, people want to work with their friends. If men are predominantly the ones working, they are the ones being given the opportunities more than women.
While using your sway as an A-list actress to complain about the pay gap is great and all, until these systemic issues are addressed, Hollywood is going to be an unfriendly place for females, both on camera and behind the scenes. Perhaps adding another few million to an actress’ already substantial fortune is less important than women in Hollywood being treated as equals in their place of work.